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Ask the Expert: How to safely view the solar eclipse

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Eclipse safety. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) We had the pleasure of speaking with Lyndon Tyler, MD, an opthalmologist of Intermountain Riverton Hospital. He tells us how to view the upcoming solar eclipse safely.

How can parents, teachers, and other adults keep kids safe during the partial eclipse in Utah on Aug. 21?

Both adults and children should not look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse. Since kids will naturally be curious about an eclipse, adults need to explain the dangers of looking directly at the sun to children. There is no way to safely watch a solar eclipse without special protective filter sunglasses.

What happens if you watch the eclipse without protecting your eyes?

The best way to explain this is with an example. If you’ve ever seen a magnifying glass burn through a leaf, the process is similar. The front of your eye is basically a series of magnifying glasses that focus light on the back inside lining of your eye or retina, which acts like the film in a camera. Because the eye is filled with fluid, the back lining won’t catch on fire like a leaf would, but it is possible to permanently burn a hole in the retina, resulting in seeing an image similar to if you burned a hole in camera film using a magnifying glass. The place that typically gets burned by the sun is right in the center of our vision because looking directly at the sun focuses all of the light at this location.

How do you know if you’ve damaged your eyes?

Typical symptoms include blurry vision, a blind spot right in the center of your vision, or seeing a bend in things that should be straight (like telephone poles and doorways). If you think you may have damaged your eyes, call your eye doctor.

What type of glasses are needed to view the eclipse safely?

The only way to directly view the sun is with special solar filters that meet a specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. Regular eyeglasses, camera lenses, home-made filters, and very dark sunglasses are NOT sufficient to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Are cardboard eclipse glasses okay to use?

As long as they meet the ISO 12312-2 guidelines, you can use cardboard eclipse glasses but make sure the lenses are not scratched or damaged. Also be careful to make sure the protective lenses are in place prior to looking at the sun and then look away from the sun before removing the special solar filter lenses.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has created a great article on eye safety during the solar eclipse. It can be found at: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/solar-eclipse-eye-safety

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